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Downloadable Content: just uttering it can cause many a gamer to go berserk and launch into a rant. It's also one of the cornerstones of modern gaming. However, is DLC as evil as many people say it is?

Corey Moore, Blogger

June 18, 2012

6 Min Read

Back in my day, we didn’t have any of this newfangled “Online Gaming” or “High Dynamic Ranging” or “Unreal 3”. In my day, when you wanted something to be in 3D, you made 8 sprites for each different direction. And if you wanted any animation, it was another +8 sprites for you. There was also none of this “checkpoints” or “auto-saves”. In my day, all ya got was 3 lives and maybe a continue if you were lucky. That’s the way it was and we liked it!

I’ll spare you the rest of that rant. The reason I brought it up is because I’ve been thinking about modern trends in gaming. New titles and IPs are released every year and sequels to older titles are released as well. Many of these old series are conforming to modern standards, from game mechanics to controls to even business models. Many of these standards are there primarily because they are tried and true, but are all of them really positive for videogames today. I’d like to look at a couple and share my thoughts.

First up is Downloadable Content. This covers everything from expansions, to map/skin packs to even online passes. However, any sort of user made mod or official patches doesn’t count. The idea behind DLC is a brilliant one: giving already released games new content in order to reinvigorate interest in the game, as well as make some extra money off of it. The developers get more money, the gamers get more game and everyone goes home happy. Or do they?

Contrary to what several people say, DLC is not the ultimate scourge of gaming. However, several companies do use DLC in a way to make this belief not as crazy as it sounds. The first is the idea of selling DLC for content that is already on the disk, but is locked away. The 108.00K file size is usually a dead giveaway that is it simply a key rather than any new content. Basically, some developers take pieces of their game, lock them away on the disk, and then sell it later as “DLC”. However, rather than expanding the player’s experience, the player will fell hat he/she paid full price for an incomplete game and got cheated out of complete content that he/she has to pay to see. For an example of this, look at the recent controversy behind Street Fighter x Tekken.

Gamers aren’t fooled by this tactic. Besides the 108.00K filesize, many more tech savvy gamers like to reverse engineer these games in order to take a look at the juicy guts that lurk within. Seeing many files for stuff that can’t be accessed in the game yet looks complete can and will raise a red flag. Unfortunately, no how well companies protect their software from this kind of thing, someone will find a way to crack the game open to find out. You can make all the claims in the world about how secure your software or hardware is; the response you’ll get is “challenge accepted.”

Even if the content is not already on the disk, DLC can sometimes be not worth the price it asks for. Take, for example, the infamous Horse Armor for Oblivion. Even at $2.50, many gamers were outraged at what they got from it, which was essentially something that looked like it was cooked up two days as a free mod which added very little to the game. Even DLC that offers more than two extra models can be disappointing in this way, as it can either be too short, feel like too much of the same, or added very little to the game.

Horse Armor

Horse Armor

 

For only $2.50, you too can make your horse look even uglier.

There is also the topic of DLC, which is quite blatantly a way to “bribe your way to victory”. In Dead Space, as you progress through the game, you are able to unlock and purchase better suits and weapons. However, for the measly price of $4.00 (320 MS Points), you can purchase the Scorpion Pack, which contains a fully upgraded suit and weapons, eliminating any need to use the ingame weapons or suits. Another good example is the player home mods in Oblivion (Wizard’s Tower, Fighter’s Stronghold, Thieve’s Den and Vile Lair), which add, among other things, a free home with storage, an easy way to level up skills such as Alchemy and Armorer and a Merchant with the highest gold amount and the lowest Mercantile level in the game. In the past, we either had to use Game Genie or a developer’s console to get this kind of power. Now it’s sold to us for Microsoft Points.

At least in a single player game, you have the option to completely ignore this DLC and be no worse for wear. In games with multiplayer where what players can affect each other’s gaming experience, it can seem unfair to some players to have to unlock all the items in the game when others pay $5 to unlock everything for them. Additionally, the DLC can further divide up the player base between those who have it and those who can’t/won’t get it. Some games provide free packs that allow you to play with people that have the DLC, but cannot use the content, though most games do not.

 Overall, I’ve primarily mentioned the ways that DLC can be abused. This is mainly because the word “DLC” seems to hold a negative connotation amongst gamers. However, there are several examples of DLC that genuinely provide a good amount of extra content at a reasonable price, or even for free in rare cases. One good example of this is the Fallout: New Vegas DLC packs, particularly Old World Blues. It provides an open area for the player to explore as well as a main questline and several sidequests. However, even after the feature presentation, the player gets, among other things, some new weapons and armor and a player home with several services, including an auto-doc, face and hair changes and even a garden for growing survival ingredients. All of this remains helpful to the main game even after the quest is done with.

DLC is one of those things that have good intentions, but more often than not, game companies don’t seem to use it to its full potential. Either it’s not worth the money it’s seen as a way to charge people more by cutting up a full game, or is otherwise an “I win” button.

The topic of modern gaming trends is so vast, that it could not be covered in one article without becoming a massive wall of text, so tune in next time for Modern Gaming Trends: Online Gaming.

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